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Predictions 101 — Week 8

Florida v South Carolina Getty Images

We had an intriguing mixed bag last week, going 4-3 straight and 4-2-1 versus “the number.”

P101 desperately needs to stop backing Mack Brown in the Red River Shootout. But we nearly pegged “USC” at LSU on the dot. And it’s too bad we didn’t sub our Oregon State over BYU winner in for what seems to be a weekly miss with the Upset Special.

Oh well, on to this week’s selections.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Oct. 18, thru Sat., Oct. 20)

1) No. 9 South Carolina at No. 3 Florida
Sat., Oct. 20 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

We love this sort of old school showdown. Run the ball. Play defense. Games that are decided in the trenches warm our hearts.

The Gator ground game pounded out 326 rushing yards at Vanderbilt last week with quarterback Jeff Driskel accounting for 177 of them. Florida, of course, won’t enjoy that kind of freedom against South Carolina’s defense.

The Gamecocks rank fifth in the country in scoring defense (12.29 points allowed per game) and 12th in total defense (296.29 yards).

Florida has a wicked stop unit of its own that’s statistically a mirror image of South Carolina, ranking just one step below in each category — sixth in scoring (12.33) and 13th in total defense (297.17).

If the Gamecocks are going to win this one on the road and claim their first three-game winning streak over the Gators, they’ll have to start quickly.

Florida has been particularly dominant in second halves this season, outscoring foes, 98-23. Furthermore, the Gators have allowed just one touchdown and a field goal in the fourth quarter this year.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the stats, but the Florida offensive line was banged up last week. Three starters are expected to return to the lineup for South Carolina’s visit. Having all hands on deck will be a great benefit to Gator offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who lines up with seven offensive linemen at times.

That sort of variety and show of strength will serve Florida well in its attempt to neutralize South Carolina’s elite front seven, which is based on quickness and anchored by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

In these types of games, field position on the gridiron makes all the difference. That leads us to punting, yes punting. The Gators rank fourth in the nation in net punting. The Gamecocks are 104th.

Opening point spread: Florida by 3 1/2

The pick: Florida 23-17

2) No. 4 Kansas State at No. 17 West Virginia
Sat., Oct. 20 — 7 p.m. ET, FOX

This is a tough one to call. If fists were able to be thrown during a conference call, they would have been flying between P101 pugilists/predictors.

As always, it doesn’t really matter what we argue about. In this case, it depends on which Mountaineer team shows up. Since the game is being contested in Morgantown, we’d be very surprised if Dana Holgorsen’s crew laid an egg that resembled last Saturday’s 49-14 loss at Texas Tech.

But at the same time, the two metrics we trust the most – running the football with a physical mindset and playing tough brand of disruptive defense – do not favor West Virginia in this matchup.

Wildcat quarterback Collin Klein is a warrior and a winner. In concert with running back John Hubert, the dual-threat triggerman directs a vicious option attack.

Although the Mountaineer defense ranks 109th in scoring defense (37.3 points allowed per game) and 114th in total defense (496 yards), it has the ability to load up against the run, but Klein can hurt you with his arm, even though he won’t ever look pretty doing it.

Of course, West Virginia’s game is much more about outscoring you than stopping you. That’s all fine and dandy, until you get exposed.

The Mountaineers will have to figure out how to solve the kind of defense that Texas Tech successfully threw at them – a variety of zone coverages behind a three or four-man rush – for the rest of the season. Those non-blitz rushes were able to disrupt Geno Smith’s rhythm and the disciplined coverage schemes limited the all-important yards-after-catch.

If Mountaineer wideouts Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey can’t wiggle through enough seams within the semi-slow Wildcat secondary, Kansas State could be on it way. Bill Snynder’s only two remaining road games are at TCU and Baylor.

Opening point spread: West Virginia by 4 1/2

The pick: Kansas State 37-35

3) No. 6 LSU at No. 20 Texas A&M
Sat., Oct. 20 — Noon ET, ESPN

After opening the season with a 20-17 loss to Florida, the Aggies have reeled off five consecutive wins, scoring at least 48 points in four of those victories.

The dynamic offense triggered by ultra-athletic quarterback Johnny Manziel has been nothing but impressive. Kudos to Kevin Sumlin to getting the A&M attack ramped up so quickly.

It’s on the other side of the football that the Aggies have their concerns. Last Saturday, they surrendered 615 yards of total offense in a 59-57 close shave at Louisiana Tech.

With the LSU offense sputtering, especially in the red zone, this trip to Kyle Field might be just the right tonic for Les Miles and his struggling quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

Opening point spread: LSU by 3

The pick: LSU 28-23

4) No. 18 Texas Tech at TCU
Sat., Oct. 20 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

Fresh off their impressive 49-14 destruction of then-No. 5 West Virginia, the Red Raiders should be on red alert.

Last October, they had a similar experience, beating then-No. 3 Oklahoma to snap the Sooners’ 39-game home winning streak. The problem was that they followed up with a 41-7 loss at home to Iowa State, which was the first of five consecutive defeats that sank a 5-7 season.

Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege, who out Geno Smithed Geno Smith in the win over the cocky Mountaineers (32-of-42 for 499 yards and six touchdowns), will have his hands full with TCU in Fort Worth.

The Horned Frog defense leads the country with 14 interceptions and ranks within the top three in the Big 12 in total defense, pass defense and passing efficiency defense. That’s fairly impressive for a unit that had to replace more than half of its starters from last year. However, guess who tops the conference rankings in all three of those categories?

Yup, the Red Raiders, who yield only 143.7 yards through the air per game (fourth in the nation). New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman shouldn’t have to buy any meals in Lubbock.

Opening point spread: TCU by 3 1/2

The pick: Texas Tech 30-23

5) No. 2 Oregon at Arizona State
Thur., Oct. 18 — 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai‘i.

The Sun Devil defense ranks within the nation’s top 10 in almost every defensive category, but those stats lie. The FBS teams that Arizona State has faced currently rank 114th, 111th, 105th, 103rd and 56th in total offense. Weakling California is that lone non-triple-digit winner of that lowly crew that’s a combined 11-22.

The Ducks, on the other hand, rank eighth in total offense, fourth in rushing and second in scoring.

That being said, everyone talks about Oregon’s high-powered offense. However, the catalyst for this year’s team is the return of the “Gang Green” defense, which has come up with four pick-six scores in the last three games.

ASU isn’t without weapons and does feature the most efficient quarterback in the Pac-12 (third nationally). Sophomore Taylor Kelly has been magnificent, but remains largely untested. Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State and USC will take care of that in the next four weeks.

Put a fork in the Sun Devils. They’re done. With the ridiculous speed Oregon has on both sides of the ball, ASU will be happy to know that it isn’t scheduled to play the Ducks next season.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 12

The pick: Oregon 48-24

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

No. 21 Cincinnati at Toledo
Sat., Oct. 20 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3

Once again, the USOTW prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif.

Having disposed of the not-so-vaunted gauntlet of three directional schools from Michigan (Western, Central and Eastern), scoring 139 points in the process, Toledo is geared up for its biggest game of the season.

After beginning his first season at the helm of the Rockets with an overtime loss at Arizona, head coach Matt Campbell has won six straight, propelled by a juggernaut offense featuring a trio of junior playmakers – quarterback Terrance Owens, running back David Fluellen and wideout Bernard Reedy.

They’re well suited to attack a Bearcat defense that allows more than 250 passing yards per game. But the Toledo attack can’t abandon the run if it hopes to keep its banged-up defense off the field. Decimated by injuries along the defensive line, the Rockets will be tested by Cincinnati’s offensive firepower that has scored 101 points in the past two weeks.

With a full slate of Big East action on the horizon, the Bearcats, who are playing their first true road game of the season, won’t be nearly as amped as their MAC hosts, who boast a 4-1 record at the Glass Bowl against ranked opponents.

Opening point spread: Cincinnati by 5

The pick: Toledo 35-32

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 12 Florida State at Miami
Sat., Oct. 20 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

This rivalry used to be at the top of the pile. Now, not so much.

Michigan State at Michigan or Stanford at California could have worked its way into this spot, but the Brent & Herbie factor was used as the three-way tiebreaker.

Oddly enough, the Hurricanes haven’t won a home game versus the Seminoles since 2004, and they added the pressure of “homecoming” to this game.

The handicapping here is simple really. Since Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher arrived in Tallahassee in 2007, as offensive coordinator, the Seminoles are 20-1 when they rush for 200 or more yards.

Count on that happening. Only two teams in the country (Tulane [1-5] and Eastern Michigan [0-6]) are worse at defending the run than the Hurricanes, who surrender 253.7 yards per game on the ground.

Bettors ought to beware, however. Only one of the last 10 meetings in this series has been decided by more than eight points.

Opening point spread: Florida by 17 1/2

The pick: Florida State 34-20

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LSU’s Mike the Tiger ate Texas A&M (logo) for breakfast

Mike the Tiger

Many of us will be feasting on turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie and perhaps a green bean casserole or cranberry sauce if you prefer. But tigers need to eat too, right?

LSU is playing Texas A&M Thursday night to add to your football enjoyment. In honor of the occasion, LSU made sure to prepare an appropriate Thanksgiving Eve feast for Mike The Tiger. Today, Mike was fed raw meat in the form of Texas A&M’s logo, with a question on social media asking how many tigers it takes to devour the Aggies.

The answer? Just one.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 9.35.15 PM

It should be noted, this is a fairly common treat for Mike the Tiger. He has also devoured the logos of Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss this season.

Image via Mike the Tiger’s Instagram.

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Clemson QB Watson might have shot to snap losing streak to Gamecocks

Deshaun Watson

When Clemson lost starting quarterback Deshaun Watson to a sprained LCL in mid-November, there was a chance he could be expected to return this season. With just days to go leading up to The Palmetto Bowl against South Carolina, it appears there is a chance Watson will play for Clemson. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had some good things to say about Watson’s healthy and mobility in practice this week.

“I thought he was better today than he was yesterday,” Swinney said, according to TigerNet. “It’s just like I have been saying it gets better each day. I know he was more confident today than he was yesterday.”

Cole Stoudt has been leading the offense and will be Clemson’s starter this week unless Watson is deemed ready to step back into the starting job. Watson replaced Stoudt earlier in the season against Florida State and held onto the job until getting injured. Swinney will play it safe and wait until he sees more before throwing Watson back under center.

“Tomorrow is another important day for us from a preparation standpoint. I think he has a good chance,” Swinney added. “How much or when? We haven’t decided that yet. But I think he definitely has a chance to play.”

Clemson has lost five straight games to their in-state rivals from the SEC. The last time Clemson defeated South Carolina at home was in 2008.

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Status of UCLA starting WR unknown following practice injury

Thomas Duarte, Adoree' Jackson

UCLA needs one more win to clinch the Pac-12 South Division, but the Bruins may have to do so without the services of one of their top wide receivers. Thomas Duarte had to leave practice on Tuesday after injuring his left leg, putting his status for Saturday’s contest with Stanford in some question.

“He is so important to us,” UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said according to The Los Angeles Times. “He has excellent ball skills, and that’s big for us. He is an inside guy that causes matchup problems.”

Duarte is UCLA’s second-leading receiver this season with 458 yards and three touchdowns. Tyler Scott has been listed behind Duarte on the UCLA depth chart and could be in line for a spot start if needed. Freshman Mossi Johnson could be another possible option if it comes to needing to replace Duarte.

If UCLA defeats Stanford, the Bruins will win the Pac-12 South and face Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game. A UCLA loss to Stanford will hand the division championship to the winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game.

Stanford will be playing UCLA without its top wide receiver. Ty Montgomery has been ruled out due to a right shoulder injury.

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Is it better for Ohio State to play Wisconsin or Minnesota (again)?

Ohio State v Minnesota Getty Images

Regardless of what unfolds Saturday in Columbus, Ohio we know the Ohio State Buckeyes will be heading to the Big Ten Championship Game as the Big Ten East Division champions. The Buckeyes will learn whom they will face on Saturday as Wisconsin and Minnesota play for Paul Bunyan’s Axe and the Big Ten West Division championship. With Ohio State looking to make a push up the College Football Playoff rankings in the next two weeks, does it matter more if Ohio State plays Wisconsin or Minnesota?

Here is the situation for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are currently ranked sixth in the College Football Playoff rankings. TCU is ranked just ahead of Ohio State and Mississippi State owns the fourth spot in the rankings. Baylor is in the conversation as well, sitting at seventh place just behind Ohio State.

Ohio State has already played Minnesota this season, winning a competitive game on the road in the snow just a couple of weeks ago. Ohio State did not have Wisconsin on the regular season schedule. If the committee compares results against similar opponents, then TCU seems to hold an edge on Ohio State with a wider margin of victory against Minnesota from a game in September. As it turns out, the Minnesota game is helping keep TCU ahead of Baylor, despite the Horned Frogs losing a head-to-head result against Baylor and having an identical record.

For Ohio State, winning the final two games of the season will be an absolute must in order to have a shot at one of the four playoff spots, especially if Alabama, Florida State and Oregon win their remaining games and conference championship games. Ohio State will have to hope the selection committee sticks to the idea of conference championships carrying a little extra weight when it comes time to selecting the four playoff teams. That overall body of work would likely look more impressive with a Big Ten championship game victory over a surging Wisconsin, with a potential Heisman Trophy running back in Melvin Gordon leading the Badgers offense.

There is no guarantee Ohio State can leapfrog TCU and Mississippi State. If ending the season on a high note holds any significance, then Ohio State may have the best argument to make with a win against Wisconsin. Would playing Minnesota a second time have the same importance?

Well, actually…

If Minnesota beats Wisconsin, it is possible the Gophers could climb as many as five spots in the next playoff ranking. This happens easier if Auburn loses to Alabama, Georgia Tech loses to Georgia and Missouri loses to Arkansas. The loser of the Arizona-Arizona State game should also fall behind a victorious Minnesota. Then we would be talking about a top 13 Minnesota, and this is assuming UCLA is not upset by Stanford or Michigan State upset by Penn State.

But Ohio State has already proven it can beat Minnesota, doing so on the road. Doing it again on a neutral field does not add much to the overall body of work for Ohio State. Adding another team to the list of opponents would likely be more beneficial to the Buckeyes. Wisconsin beating Minnesota would diminish the attractiveness of one of Ohio State’s wins, but it would do the same for TCU as well. The more Minnesota wins, the better things could play out for TCU, and not Ohio State.

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Georgia Southern has bowl waiver denied

Georgia Southern has already clinched a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship in its first season at the FBS level, but it does not look as though the Eagles will be going to a bowl game. The university reportedly filed for a waiver to be eligible to participate in a postseason bowl game, but that waiver has been denied. Georgia Southern can still file an appeal and hope for the best.

Any appeal decision at this point is likely to uphold the original ruling on the waiver. If bowl spots start to become harder to fill, then the chances Georgia Southern could receive a positive response could increase.

Programs moving up from the FCS to the FBS ranks are ineligible for postseason play in their first year in FBS. Exceptions may be made to allow these schools play in a bowl game, but this has rarely been a legitimate concern. Georgia Southern’s case is just about as strong as it could have been with a share of the Sun Belt title and a chance to win the conference’s outright title.

Georgia Southern can win the outright Sun Belt title with a win against ULM or a Louisiana-Lafayette loss to Troy this weekend. The Sun Belt’s champion typically plays in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

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Todd Gurley begins rehab after ACL surgery

Todd Gurley

Georgia running back Todd Gurley underwent surgery on Tuesday to address a torn ACL, and he started his rehab on Wednesday.

It used to be a torn ACL would keep a player out of action for a year, but sometimes players can come back earlier than they used to thanks to improved medical treatment and rehab practices. Regardless, Gurley should not be expected to play again this season and he will likely be limited at best in the spring. The other question is whether or not Gurley will be working to return for one more season at Georgia or if he will risk taking a shot at the NFL while coming off a torn ACL.

Returning for one more year at Georgia would appear to be the most logical situation for Gurley. Before the injury Gurley would have likely been the first running back off the big board in the 2015 NFL Draft, but considering the diminished running back stock in the NFL Draft and the injury, heading to the NFL would be an unwise move for Gurley right now.

Gurley recently had his anticipated return to the field cut short. After sitting out four games due to a suspension, Gurley returned to action in a home game against Auburn. It was a fine return, but a torn ACL in the final minutes of the game put a damper on the entire game despite the win.

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Broyles Award nominees include Kiffin, Venables, 38 others

Lane Kiffin

With the next round fo the coaching carousel about to get underway at full speed, some programs may want to pay attention to the list of names nominated for the Broyles Award. The Broyles Award is presented annually to the top assistant coach in college football, and the list of 40 nominees for this year’s award includes some names with previous head coaching experience and others about to be in line for a head coaching gig somewhere around the country.

Current head coaches who previously won the Broyles Award include Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, UConn’s Bob Diaco and Duke’s David Cutcliffe. Last year’s Broyles Award winner was Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who many feel could be ready for a head coaching offer in the next round of the coaching carousel.  This year Narduzzi is not a finalist for the award, but Spartans co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner is.

“This will be one of the most challenging years ever for our selection committee to choose the top 5 finalists and winner, so many assistant coaches did outstanding work this year,” David Bazzel, Broyles Award executive director.

This year’s Broyles Award winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 9 by The Rotary Club of Little Rock and sponsor Delta Dental. The award is named after former Arkansas head coach Frank Broyles, who had a solid track record of pumping out quality assistant coaches. Some of the assistants who coaches under Broyles include Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson, Hayden Fry, Joe Gibbs, and Jackie Sherrill.

Broyles Award Nominees

Alabama – Lane Kiffin, Offensive Coordinator
Appalachian State – Dwayne Ledford, Co-Offensive Coordinator
Arizona – Jeff Casteel, Defensive Coordinator
Arkansas – Robb Smith, Defensive Coordinator
Arkansas State University – Walt Bell, Offensive Coordinator
Boise State University – Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator
Boston College – Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator
Brigham Young University – Nick Howell, Defensive coordinator
Clemson – Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator
Colorado State – Dave Baldwin, Offensive Coordinator
Duke University – John Latina, Run Game Coordinator/OL
East Carolina University – Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator
FIU – Josh Conklin, Defensive Coordinator
Georgia Southern University – Doug Ruse, Offensive Coordinator
Louisiana – Marquase Lovings, Running Backs
Louisiana Tech – Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator
Louisville – Todd Grantham, Defensive Coordinator
Memphis – James Shibest, Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
Miami – Mark D’Onofrio, Defensive Coordinator
Michigan – Greg Mattison, Defensive Coordinator
Michigan State University – Dave Warner, Co-Offensive Coordinator
Minnesota – Tracy Claeys, Defensive Coordinator
Mississippi State – Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator
Missouri – Dave Steckel, Defensive Coordinator
NC State – Desmond Kitchings, Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator
Ohio State University – Tom Herman, Offensive Coordinator
Ole Miss – Dave Wommack, Defensive Coordinator
Oregon – Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator
Penn State University – Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator
Stanford – Lance Anderson, Defensive Coordinator
TCU – Doug Meacham, Co-Offensive Coordinator
Temple – Phil Snow, Defensive Coordinator
UCF – Brent Key, Offensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
UCLA – Noel Mazzone, Offensive Coordinator
Utah – Kalani Sitake, Defensive Coordinator
Utah State University – Todd Orlando, Defensive Coordinator
UTSA – Neal Neathery, Defensive Coordinator
West Virginia University – Tony Gibson, Defensive Coordinator
Western Michigan University – Kirk Ciarrocca, Offensive Coordinator
Wisconsin – Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator

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Freeze, on Bo Wallace: ‘have to chain him down to keep him from’ Egg Bowl

Mississippi v Arkansas Getty Images

While it’s not yet officially official, it appears Ole Miss’ triggerman will indeed be under center for the Egg Bowl Saturday.

Bo Wallace missed a substantial chunk of the Arkansas loss last week after injuring his ankle.  During practice leading up to the rivalry game against Mississippi State, Wallace has been somewhat limited.

On the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday, however, Wallace’s head coach seemed decidedly optimistic that the quarterback will be on the field when the Rebels take on the Bulldogs.

You would have to chain him down to keep him from going,” Hugh Freeze said. “He’s looking better every day. We anticipate him being ready to go.”

If Wallace were to suffer a setback, the Rebels would turn to either Devante Kincaid and Ryan Buchanan. The backup duo, both redshirt freshmen, has attempted 39 passes this season, with Kincaid completing 15 of his 17 attempts.

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Hoos your coach in 2015? For Virginia, it’s Mike London

Mike London AP

There will be many head coaches dragged to the chopping block over the next month or so.  One of those who won’t be, somewhat surprisingly, is Mike London.

With speculation swirling, Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage confirmed in a press release Wednesday afternoon that London will be returning as the Cavaliers’ head coach in 2015.  A two-win team in London’s fourth season last year, the Cavaliers stand at five wins in 2014 and on the cusp of bowl eligibility.

It’s that improvement that led Littlepage to take his finger off the trigger and give London what most would consider a one-year reprieve.

“It was important to see improvement in our football program this season,” Littlepage’s statement began. “I’ve seen signs of progress in many areas. Through the staff changes made over the last two years, we are better at teaching the game and in the overall development of the student-athletes. We also continue to notice the commitment by this group of coaches and student-athletes to their academic and community responsibilities.

“The staff has re-focused its recruiting efforts to emphasize the need to attract student-athletes capable of helping the program compete at a high level in the expanded Atlantic Coast Conference. We are seeing many of these student-athletes on the field right now and the staff continues to have success on the recruiting trail. We will continue to support the program in their efforts to maximize their recruiting success.

“It’s important for each of our sports programs to continue to show progress and follow a plan to compete for conference championships and in postseason competition to support the department’s goals. I trust the plan Mike has in place and believe his leadership provides the best opportunity for Virginia football to be successful in the future.”

In London’s five-plus seasons, UVa is 23-37 overall and 11-28 in ACC play.  An 8-5 season in 2011 led to speculation that he would replace Joe Paterno at Penn State.  London instead remained in Charlottesville, and the Cavaliers finished sixth and seventh in the Coastal division in 2012 and 2013, respectively; they’re tied for fourth this year.

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Report: no contact between Braxton Miller, Oregon

Braxton Miller AP

It’s not just the coaching rumor mill that’s churning the day before Turkey Day.

Because of J.T. Barrett‘s eyebrow-raising success this season, success that has put the redshirt freshman squarely in the Heisman mix, speculation has been growing that the window on Braxton Miller‘s days at Ohio State is closing.  As the speculation goes, Miller will look to transfer from the Buckeyes — as a graduate transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately — and move on to a situation that would afford him the opportunity to be the starter for his final collegiate season, which may or may not be the case at OSU.

Miller’s name, despite no hints from the player himself, mind you, has been connected to schools such as Auburn, Boston College and, most notably, Oregon.  The Ducks would make sense on numerous levels, as both the offensive system utilized would seem to match Miller’s skillset and UO’s triggerman, Marcus Mariota, is expected to leave early for the NFL.  The dot-connecting is reasonable, although that doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

According to The Oregonian, and citing a source with knowledge of the situation, “[t]here has been no contact between Oregon and either Miller or anyone acting on his behalf.” Leading up to the paper knocking down the talk, there was a rumor making the rounds that Miller had let it be known to the UO football program that he had an interest in the school and offensive coordinator Scott Frost followed up on that interest during a recruiting trek a couple of weeks ago. One of the problems with that, the paper notes, is that Frost wasn’t on the recruiting trail at that time.

A little over a week ago, NFL.com reported that “the quarterback’s plan for now is to remain at Ohio State and lead the Buckeyes in 2015.” Two months ago, Urban Meyer stated emphatically that Miller is his guy.

Braxton is our quarterback,” Meyer said Sept. 30. “To be fair to Braxton, Big Ten Player of the Year. But it’s good to know we’ve got both of them.”

A month and a half later, Meyer’s tune had changed slightly as he heavily intimated Miller will have to earn the job back… if he even stays, which the head coach seemed to hint at as well.

Competition brings out the best, and I’m really excited to have two really good quarterbacks next year, if that’s the plan,” the coach hedged.

If it’s made clear to Miller that he will have to earn back a job that he held for three years prior to re-injuring his shoulder during summer camp, it will be interesting to see if he accepts the challenge or moves on.  And, if there is a true competition, is it something Miller can even win?  Barrett, in 11 games, has already proven to be the better passer of the two — as the competition has already pointed out — and his running ability, while not at Miller’s level, is a significant weapon as well.

It’s hard to see how Meyer could send Barrett back to the bench after the season he’s had, one that could see a mid-December trip to New York City for the Heisman ceremony.  It’s also hard to see how Meyer could keep Miller, the 2012 and 2013 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, off the field.  One way or the other, whether it’s by transfer attrition or competition, something has got to give.

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Clemson-South Carolina officially dubbed ‘The Palmetto Bowl’

Clemson v South Carolina Getty Images

After years of fans and media alike ofttimes and unofficially referring to it as “The Palmetto Bowl,” the in-state rivalry between Clemson and South Carolina has officially taken on that moniker, both schools announced Wednesday.

Seeing as both teams hail from “The Palmetto State,” the name makes perfect sense.  The announcement also comes just a couple of days before the 112th meeting between the two football programs.

“This is one of the premier games every year in college football, and it’s a great opportunity for our institutions to increase exposure to the State of South Carolina and all the great people here,” Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said in a statement. “To name this game ‘The Palmetto Bowl’ hopefully adds to the identity of this great rivalry.”

“From ‘Big Thursday’ to ‘The Palmetto Bowl,’ there is so much history and tradition to showcase about this rivalry,” said Radakovich’s South Carolina counterpart, Ray Tanner. “The Palmetto Bowl gives this rivalry an identity that highlights the State of South Carolina and the accomplishments of these outstanding institutions.”

In addition to the name, the schools also announced a trophy and logo will be developed and unveiled prior to the 2015 game.

Behind only Minnesota-Wisconsin (108 this weekend), Clemson-South Carolina is the second-longest, consecutively-played rivalry in the country at 106 straight (as of Saturday).  The Tigers currently lead the series 65-42-4, although the Gamecocks have won five straight and six of the last eight.

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Sun Devils’ leading receiver to play in Territorial Cup

Jaelen Strong, Dominique Hatfield

A head injury kept the most productive piece of Arizona State’s passing game out of last week’s game.  That, though, won’t be the case on rivalry weekend.

Tuesday, Todd Graham confirmed that Jaelen Strong will play in this Saturday’s Territorial Cup battle with Arizona.  Graham allowed that the wide receiver was “close to playing last week” against Washington State, but the team decided to take the precautionary route because of the concussion.

That won’t be the case this week as the symptoms have subsided, giving the offense back one of its most potent weapons.

It’s going to be great to have him back,” quarterback Taylor Kelly said. “It’s going to open up D.J. (Foster) and our running game and also get Cam Smith the ball more.”

Strong is tops on the Sun Devils in receptions (71), receiving yards (982) and receiving touchdowns (nine). Those totals are good for 12th, 16th and T-11th in the nation, respectively, and fourth among Pac-12 receivers in all three categories.

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TCU with good news, no news on skill-player front

B.J. Catalon, Orion Stewart

TCU’s skill-position players are getting healthier. Whether they are getting really healthy as the push toward a potential spot in the College Football Playoff remains to be seen.

Gary Patterson confirmed Tuesday that wide receiver Deante’ Gray will play in the Thanksgiving Day game against Texas. Gray has missed the past two games with a foot injury.

Despite being sidelined for a pair of games, Gray is still tied for the lead in touchdown receptions with seven, while he’s third in receiving yards (486) and fourth in receptions (29).

On the not-so-good injury front is B.J. Catalon.

The running back sustained what’s only been described as an upper-torso injury — the speculation is that it’s a concussion — in the Nov. 1 win over West Virginia. Catalon did not play in the last two games, wins over Kansas State and Kansas, because of the injury. Whether it’s a third straight sidelining is unclear, although it’s not sounding promising.

I don’t know whether B.J. will be with us or not,” the head coach said when asked about Catalon’s availability for the holiday road trip to Austin.

This season, Catalon has accounted for 910 all-purpose yards — 493 rushing, 163 receiving, 254 on returns. That versatility led the junior to be named as one of the five finalists for the Hornung Award.

Despite those two missed games, he still leads the Horned Frogs with 10 rushing touchdowns. He’s returned a punt for a touchdown this year as well.

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Wazzu to induct Steve Gleason into its Hall of Fame

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints

If you’re looking for a morning pick-me-up, we have you covered.

During Saturday’s Apple Cup game with Washington, Washington State will induct its Class of 2014 into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. That class will consist of one person: Steve Gleason.

Gleason played both football and baseball for the Cougars from 1995-99. On the gridiron, he was a two-time captain; he was a captain on the baseball team his senior year as well. Three times he earned All-Pac-10 honors in football, and four times he was a Pac-10 All-Academic selection.

In 2011, a handful of years after a seven-year NFL career came to an end, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Since then, Gleason established “Team Gleason,” a foundation that looks to raise money and awareness for ALS.

Gleason raising awareness will serve as his lasting and most impactful legacy; his collegiate athletic prowess, though, will now have an official legacy as well.

“Steve is a tremendous Cougar and his induction Saturday night into the Washington State University Athletic Hall of Fame is well deserved,” said athletic director Bill Moos in a statement. “With a sold-out Martin Stadium for the Apple Cup, I can think of no better setting to highlight Steve’s accomplishments than in front of a fan base that has admired him for so many years.”

Gleason’s induction will take place between the first and second quarters of the rivalry game. It will mark the first time in the school’s history that just one former student-athlete has been inducted in that year’s class.

Based on how Gleason lived his life before and after his diagnosis, the honor is well-deserved.

 

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Guy, Mackey, O’Brien, Outland, Thorpe awards announce finalists

Melbourne Cup Day Getty Images

It was a busy Tuesday night for major awards announcing its finalists, as evidenced by the fact that CFT is now just getting to the other half of them.

The finalists for the Maxwell (most outstanding player at any position), Nagurski (defensive player), Biletnikoff (wide receiver), Groza (kicker) and Walker (running back) awards we’ve already covered; now we’ll get to the other five. In announcements Tuesday night, the Guy (punter), Mackey (tight end), O’Brien (quarterback), Outland (interior lineman) and Thorpe (defensive back) finalists were revealed.

Below are the three distinguished finalists for each award:

RAY GUY AWARD
Tom Hackett, Utah (Jr.)
JK Scott, Alabama (Fr.)
Austin Rehkow, Idaho (Soph.)

DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD
Trevone Boykin, TCU (Jr.)
Marcus Mariota, Oregon (RS Jr.)
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (Jr.)

JOHN MACKEY AWARD
Nick O’Leary, Florida State (Sr.)
Clive Walford, Miami (Sr.)
Maxx Williams, Minnesota (RS Soph.)

OUTLAND TROPHY
Malcom Brown, Texas (Jr.)
Reese Dismukes, Auburn (Sr.)
Brandon Scherff, Iowa (Sr.)

JIM THORPE AWARD
Landon Collins, Alabama (Jr.)
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon (Sr.)
Gerod Holliman, Louisville (RS So.)

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